High blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (AF) are the top contributors to the more than 300 lives lost prematurely to cardiovascular disease each year in Surrey. With eight out of ten deaths from heart disease in this country deemed preventable, it is really important to know that your heart is healthy and blood pressure at a safe level.

In Surrey Heartlands, a community outreach service is being developed with the Guildford Diocese which will see volunteers trained in carrying out blood pressure and pulse checks.

The volunteers will carry out the checks as part of an outreach programme which includes specific targeted work with minority groups. The checks will take place after church services but also during care home visits and at community events.

In addition a new service is under development in partnership with community pharmacies. From next spring, pharmacies will offer health checks, called Blood Pressure Plus, that include blood pressure testing along with a pulse check. Depending on their results, patients may be referred to a range of services for diagnosis, follow-up and management.

The following options may be offered:

• A full NHS Health Check

• Referral to primary care for ambulatory blood pressure monitoring

• Referral to primary care for electrocardiogram (ECG)

• A test for blood glucose levels and, depending on results, possible referral to the National Diabetes Prevention Programme

Community pharmacies employ healthcare professionals who are trained in measuring and understanding blood pressure results and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

People will be able to find out if they have high blood pressure (hypertension) or a condition like AF - that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. If these conditions are not identified or controlled, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is significantly increased.

AF increases the risk of stroke by five times and is responsible for 20 per cent of all strokes. What’s more, the individual impact of an AF-related stroke is far worse than those caused by other factors.

Surrey Heartlands Clinical Lead, Consultant Cardiologist Dr Michael Hickman, who works at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, said: “Lifestyle-related factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as smoking, poor diet and a lack of exercise can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

“Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality and is a major burden on health services, social care and the economy at large.

“The increased detection and early management of conditions such as hypertension and atrial fibrillation will reduce the numbers of heart attacks and strokes, this will reduce social care needs, and the negative impact that these conditions have on people’s lives.”

To increase awareness of heart health and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, Public Health England’s (PHE) Heart Age campaign is encouraging adults to complete the One You Heart Age Test. It reveals your ‘heart age’ as compared with your real age and offers advice and support on how to improve your health.

In addition selected community locations and pharmacies across Surrey are this month offering free blood pressure checks. More details can be found here.